What Every College Student Should Know About Identity Theft

August 16, 2014

college studentAs college students are getting settled on campus, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. College students are very susceptible to identity theft, however, and somewhere between decorating their dorm, buying books and locating the best pizza in town, BBB recommends that they take some simple steps to protect themselves on campus.

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people aged 18 to 24 took the longest to detect — 132 days on average — when compared to other age groups. The average cost of losses to this age group was roughly five times more than the amount lost by other age groups and the average time to resolve identity fraud is 33 hours – that’s a lot of valuable study time.

Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; sometimes all they want is to exploit your clean credit record. It’s important for students to be vigilant in monitoring bank and credit card statements to spot unauthorized activity. Sign up for security alerts on your accounts and have them sent to your mobile phone so you’ll know if any unauthorized changes have been made to your account.

Young adults that establish good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud are laying a path that will help create a healthy financial road for the rest of their lives. BBB recommends that students take the following seven steps to fight identity theft on campus:

  • Send sensitive mail to your parents’ home or a post office box. School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment.
  • Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
  • Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. Just say no if your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
  • Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
  • Check out unfamiliar websites at bbb.org when shopping online. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.

Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com